A Very Merry Alcohol Cats Christmas and GIVEAWAY

ATTENTION ALL CAT LOVERS and CRAFTY MUG LOVERS. This is your lucky day. I present to you an opportunity to give to a good cause this holiday season, and potentially win some AWESOME COFFEE MUGS that I hand decorated.

Watch the video below to get started:

Here are the CATFFICIAL rules:

To enter, you must do one of the following -
1. Donate
2. Volunteer
3. Adopt (any cat, dog, or small animal)
to/at your local shelter, humane society, or private animal rescue.

Then, submit proof of doing so (like a receipt* or photo) to alcoholcats@gmail.com to be entered in the giveaway.

*It’s the thought that counts! Any amount of donations (monetary or physical), volunteer time, or adoptions will be treated equally.

If you absolutely hate email, tag me on Twitter: @alcoholcats – and then bug me to make sure I received your entry.

By submitting to the giveaway, you are granting me permission to use your photos and identity on any Alcohol Cats social media platform (such as Youtube, Twitter, Instagram, or alcoholcats.com), unless you provide a written request not to.

Entries will be received on a rolling basis and giveaway winners will be announced whenever I feel like it. Because. (That means you will probably not get the prizes by Christmas, but definitely before next Christmas. I swear.)

Please spread the word to help the animals! :-)

Here’s a close-up of the prize:
Prize mugs 1 Prize Mugs 2

Now, get giving!! <3

NEW VIDEOS – meow.

Hello wonderful world! You may or may not have secretly noticed a new thing going on in the Alcohol Cat world…. which is why I’m here to officially announce it:

THERE ARE VIDEOS. VIDEOS ARE HAPPENING.

Approximately every two weeks, a new video will grace the internet, featuring myself and the alcohol cats, to give you fun, informative CATERTAINMENT.

Go visit the Alcohol Cat Youtube channel (and subscribe!) and look here for new videos. In the meantime, please enjoy the first two videos right here :-)

Top 6 Items to Donate to an Animal Shelter

The donation of physical items to an animal shelter can be extremely welcome, as shelters don’t necessarily have the funds to provide these items themselves. But unless you volunteer or work at a shelter, it can be hard to know what is most useful. Here is my list of the top six items (or types of items) you should donate to your local animal shelter:

1. Towels/blankets/beds are one of the top-used items at shelters. Towels tend to be one of the most useful items because they can be used for a variety of things: bedding, padding in carriers, cleaning up messes, drying off an animal, etc. It’s great to donate gently used towels or blankets (or even pet beds) to your local shelter. Keep in mind, though, that animal shelters house stressed-out animals that might urinate, defecate, vomit on, or tear to shreds their bedding. So you shouldn’t shell out money for brand new items, or spend hours sewing anything together*. On the other hand, keep to the general rule that if you wouldn’t use it yourself or for your own pet, there’s a good chance that neither will the animal shelter. Stained pillows, blankets with holes, dog beds with stuffing falling out, are all items that may not be usable by the shelter. Items that need special washing or drying techniques are also not great items to donate, as most things get thrown into a standard or commercial grade washer and dryer, often with a good heap of bleach.
*Smaller rescues, especially foster-home based rescues, would probably be better recipients of home-made items than large shelters.

2. Unopened food/treats – many shelters have deals with pet food companies (such as Natural Balance or Science Diet) and get their food donated already. Check with your local shelter to see if this is the case, and if so, what brand they use. Typically, food must be unopened in order to be accepted, for safety reasons. Even if a shelter uses a specific brand, they are often accept prescription diets (which are expensive) or cans of cat food that don’t fit their current brand. (Shelter cats will sometimes decide not to eat, in which case the shelter will often tempt the cat with as many varieties as possible.) Smaller shelters and rescues might be even less picky, and accept any type of food, as long as it hasn’t been opened. It’s always good to ask first! And if you’re looking for a place that will accept opened bags of dry food, check with a local organization that helps feral cats.

3. Laundry detergent – to keep up with daily cleaning, most shelters have to run their washers and dryers 24/7. Some larger shelters have commercial-sized machines that still barely keep up with the demand. But particularly for any shelter that does not have commercial machines, laundry detergent is always needed. Just be sure to ask if there are any specifications required, such as needing to be high efficiency compatible.

4. Hand sanitizer/paper towels – keep the shelters nice and clean. Paper towels can be used for spot cleaning or as a bathroom necessity, and the empty rolls can be used as cheap toys for kittens. Hand sanitizer is used by staff, volunteers, and the public to disinfect hands between handling different animals. Germs can be spread very easily, particularly among kittens, which is why it’s important to have sanitizer at the ready!

5. Crates/carriers – for every transportation need. While this is a pretty obvious number to the list, it’s amazing how most shelters can never collect too many pet carriers. Between general wear and tear, lending out crates that are never returned, and giving some away to desperate pet owners in need, most shelters always need more crates and carriers.

6. Toys  – to keep the animals entertained while they wait for their new homes! As with blankets and beds, follow the rule that if you wouldn’t give it to your own pet, the shelter probably can’t use it. Used bones can’t be sanitized, and chew toys already chewed to bits can pose a hazard. Similarly, cat trees and scratchers can be difficult to sanitize, so check with your shelter about whether or not they can accept them. This is isn’t to say that toys have to be brand new (although that’s always nice!), but consider donating the toys that your own pet decided he didn’t like, instead of the ones he loved to pieces. That being said, Kong toys for dogs (to use as food puzzles) and cardboard scratching posts for cats (that fit inside a kennel) can provide excellent and much-needed enrichment.

Other Items
Of course, there may be other items desperately needed by your local shelter that do not fit into any of the above categories. Some shelters will have requests on their website, Facebook page, or on an Amazon wishlist. So look around and become the most awesome in-kind donor of them all!

At the end of the day, animal shelters can’t survive with donations, both monetary and physical. Not everyone can give tons of money, and that’s absolutely okay. But you’d be surprised how needed that one bottle of hand sanitizer you bought on clearance can be, or those gifted towels you’ve never used.

So please, donate what you can. And THANK YOU!

photo (22)

Cats That Twitch: Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome

The most famous cat in recent news—Lux, the “911 cat”—made headlines back in March when he attacked his family’s baby and held them hostage at their home in Oregon. The family called 911 for rescue, which then leaked to the media. Perhaps because of its sensational nature (whoever heard of a cat holding anyone hostage?), the story went viral. And not long after that, Jackson Galaxy convinced Animal Planet to go back into production for season 5 of My Cat From Hell (even though they had stopped filming) in order to help Lux and broadcast it on TV.

I’m not interested in anyone’s opinion on the family that owned Lux. What interests me is the medical component to the story. Jackson discovered that Lux suffered from a condition called feline hyperesthesia syndrome (FHS). FHS cats, for whatever reason, suffer from twitching that generally results in self-mutilation. It can happen at any time, though is usually exacerbated by stress (such as a baby pulling the cat’s tail). In Lux’s case, the condition is even more rare because he lashes out at those around him instead of himself. Still, what I like about this episode from Jackson, is that it brings to the forefront a condition that most people—even cat owners—have never even heard of.

AmbrosiaOne of the cats at my shelter, Ambrosia, has FHS. She’s a pretty grey & white tabby, about 3.5 years old, and was transferred to Best Friends from a L.A. city shelter almost a year and a half ago. Ambrosia is a sweet cat. She’ll often climb onto your shoulder and rub against you when you open her cage. She can be sassy at times, but then, she’s been living in a cage-like setting for a long time. (A free-roam room or other housing options would be too stressful for her.) Her tail is partially amputated from her having self-mutilated it, but you wouldn’t notice it right away. Otherwise, she looks like a normal cat. Currently, Ambrosia is in one of our newer single cat cages up front. It’s great because she has more space than she used to, but I’d love to see her not in a cage at all. She’s one of the first cats visitors can see, and yet most people walk right on by her.

Ambrosia is a healthy girl, provided she gets her medication. At first, the shelter tried to simply reduce her stress (which helped a lot in reducing episodes), but they finally decided to also do a drug trial. Ambrosia is currently on gabapentin—an anti-seizure medication—and so far, it seems to have made an even bigger improvement on her behavior. This will most likely need to be a life-long medication.

Ambrosia was already one of the longest resident cats when I began working at Best Friends, and she never gets a serious look by visitors. It’s hard to, when there are plenty of sweet, friendly, young cats without any “issues” also available for adoption. Plus, most people have never heard of FHS. Ambrosia needs to be indoor-only, with someone who understands her condition and will take it seriously. So Ambrosia continues to be overlooked time and again.

It is my hope that due to the recent media sensation of Lux the 911 cat, someone might come into the shelter and be open to adopting a cat like Ambrosia. Maybe a few more people will know what FHS is. It is my hope that Ambrosia, and all special needs cats, will find that special someone sometime soon.

If you, or anyone you know, is looking to adopt a special needs cat like Ambrosia, especially if you/they live in the SoCal area, please email alcoholcats@gmail.com

Together, let’s find Ambrosia a home.

#ADOPTAmbrosia

For more on feline hyperesthesia syndrome, click here and here.

Smirnoff’s Adopt-iversary

Smirnoff's shelter photo

Smirnoff’s shelter photo

Four years ago today, I went to the Animal Rescue League of Boston and adopted a one-year-old cat named Bolt. I gave him a new name: Smirnoff.

A few months later, I began volunteering. A few years after that, I got a job at Best Friends Animal Society – Los Angeles.

It’s true that adoption changes lives.


Happy Adopt-iversary, Smirnoff!

Smirnoff_5_1

Project Dog Zailey

Zailey 01At first glance, Zailey looks like just another middle-aged tan chihuahua. To be fair, her breed is actually quite mixed—she has short legs, but a thin nose; perky ears that flop at the very ends; and a little nub tail that, when it wags, makes her whole butt wiggle. So while she’s definitely not just a chihuahua (perhaps not even a chihuahua at all), animal shelters, particularly in Southern California, tend to say that any small dog that doesn’t look like something else, is a chihuahua mix. And there are more than enough of those to go around.

Zailey is overweight. She has a cataract in one eye. She’s just starting to get a little gray around the muzzle and leans a little when she sits (which means she may have some arthritis). There are plenty of younger, prettier dogs than Zailey up for adoption—even older dogs who look more like a specific breed. Like a lot of small dogs, Zailey takes naps under a blanket, so sometimes the kennel looks like she’s not even there.

Zailey has been with us since August. She rarely gets looked at by visitors. She is my favorite dog at the shelter.

Choosing a Project Dog
The Adoptions Team have what we call “project dogs”. These are dogs that we help train whenever we have down time, or a few spare minutes between projects. The other adoptions staff have big dogs as their project dogs. They’re animals that just need help with some basic obedience, or need that extra stimulation that training provides. Our project dogs don’t necessarily have any major behavioral issues; they’re usually dogs that have been at the shelter a bit longer than most and need some extra attention.

So far, I’ve chosen small dogs to work with. I like them because they’re more cat-sized, and because small dogs often get overlooked in terms of training. It’s my opinion that small dogs need just as much training as a big dog does–in fact, sometimes more. Small breed dogs have their own behavioral quirks (such as lap guarding, clingy-ness, excessive barking, etc.), which plenty of people don’t bother to work on through training. It’s probably one of the reasons why the majority of dog bite incidents are from small dogs—not the big breed dogs one would assume

Zailey came to my attention simply because she was generally ignored. I didn’t know too much about her personality. At the time, we didn’t have a huge population of small dogs, so the pickings were slim. The staff dog trainer also wanted me to work with Zailey, so I agreed to give it a try.

The Training BeginsZailey 02
I ended up choosing a dog who was afraid of the clicker. Great. I tried a softer clicker, which Zailey was still unsure of. She wanted nothing to do with me lifting a treat over her head and trying to get her to sit was going nowhere. Zailey wasn’t a shy dog. She was more unsure than anything. My first thought was that I picked a dog that wasn’t interested in training, or was too old to learn (it’s hard to break stereotypes sometimes).

But I tried to be patient. I took Zailey into a small room, put the soft clicker in my pocket to make it even softer, and (using the dog trainer’s advice), “broke down” the command.

Alright, I thought. If Zailey won’t sit, what will she do? I began to reward her every time she lifted her nose up. She was unsure of my bringing the treat over her head, so if I could get her to start looking up, that would be something. A very tiny something.

She started to do it, looking up at the treat. Awesome. And then she sat.

And then she sat again. It was as if she had always known how to sit. She gave me a look as if to say, Well if that’s what you wanted me to do, why didn’t you just say so?

A couple weeks later, we had a one-on-one session with the trainer.

“She’s not afraid of the soft clicker anymore, and she can do sit,” I said.

“Let’s try down, then.”

The dog trainer put down a blanket, as we were outside in the play yard and Zailey’s a bit of an older lady. I moved the treat down, and Zailey just looked at it. Just move a little, I thought.

“We can break it down. Reward her if she lowers one of her elbows.”

Zailey would not lower an elbow. But she’d crane her neck down a little bit. So I rewarded her for that.

And then she laid down. And again. It amazed me how fast she went from barely understanding what I was asking of her, to acting as if she had known all along.

“Okay,” I said. “I guess she knows lay down now!”

Not Just a Chihuahua (or any dog)
Since then, Zailey has learned how to do “doggie push-ups”. She can sit, lay down, sit back up, and keep going. She heels like a dream on the leash. I barely even need to use a leash, in fact. We’ve been working on “leave it” (which is good, because she’ll eat any little crumb she finds on the ground). In just two short sessions, I can throw a treat toward her or across the floor and she waits patiently for me to give her a different treat. She loves to train.

Zailey also loves to hike. Whenever I (or anyone else) goes to collect her from her kennel, she does a super cute happy dance. She’s so excited to get out and go explore. She is house-trained and appreciates the opportunity to pee outside, too. She joined in on an enrichment hike put together by our awesome volunteers, and little Zailey kept up with all of the big dogs and never once asked to be carried. (The exercise seems to be helping with her joints, too.)

Zailey is my favorite dog at the shelter because she’s a hidden gem. She may get overlooked for a dozen reasons, but she’d make the best companion to someone looking for a quirky, happy little girl. Because that’s what Zailey is, all the time: happy.

She’s also one of the best-trained small dogs we have.

Zailey 03

‘Tis the [Kitten] Season

Kitten - tabbyLos Angeles had a warm winter, which means one thing: an early start to kitten season. The little balls of fur are beginning to find their way into shelters and into our kitten nursery, foreshadowing a long, fur-filled spring and summer.

Perhaps surprisingly, the population with the highest rate of euthanasia in shelters is under-aged kittens (under 8 weeks old). By a lot. The reason for this is that 1) there are a lot of them – unlike owners who keep unneutered or unspayed dogs, owners with unneutered or unspayed cats still allow them to wander outside unsupervised, pretty much guaranteeing unwanted litters of kittens. And 2) under-aged kittens need round-the-clock care (depending on their age) and have fragile immune systems. Most shelters aren’t able to care for them, and often have no or very few foster homes able to care for them, so oftentimes euthanasia is the more humane option.

Thus, having resources to save under-aged kittens is absolutely necessary in order to even come close to being no-kill*.

[*For the purpose of this discussion, I’m considering “no-kill” to mean that at least 90% of animals that enter a shelter make it out alive. We can get into a “no-kill” definition discussion at a later time – it’s an interesting one!.]

The Best Nursery in Town

Best Friends Animal Society – Los Angeles has an on-site kitten nursery, complete with four incubators (for kittens under 1 month old), cages for the slightly older bottle babies, a gruel room for kittens mostly eating on their own, and a Mommy & Me suite for mamma cats and her babies. (By far the easiest kittens to take care of are the ones with their mom. Take care of the mom, and she does all the work with the kittens!)

Kitten - whiteLast year, Best Friends LA rescued over 1500 kittens, and this year, we plan to save 1800. And they’re already pouring in – the last week has seen over 20 kittens, all less than 1 month old. Bottle feeding “incu-babies” (the ones in the incubators) is done every 2 hours, while the slightly older kittens can be fed every 3 hours. The survival rate for kittens less than 2 weeks old (without their mom) is extremely low, even with the best care. But we give them the best chance possible.

The white kitten (pictured – right) was brought in with its three tabby siblings just a couple weeks ago. Unfortunately, only one tabby kitten remains, but she is doing well.

What to Do if You Find Kittens

If at all possible, keep the kittens with their mom. If you find kittens outside unattended, their mom might just be out hunting. (Especially if the kittens do not have their eyes open yet, they have a much better chance of survival with their mom, even outside!). Wait to see if the mom comes back, unless it is obvious that the kittens were abandoned by people (say, if you find them in a dumpster), or if the mom is deceased (if you see a female cat nearby that was hit by a car). If it is clear that there is no mom cat, you can try to bottle feed them yourself, or bring them to a no-kill shelter or rescue*. If there is a mom around, you can try to lure the mom cat inside with food and keep her confined to one room with her babies until they are at least 8 weeks old. Or, bring the mom and babies to your local shelter or rescue, if they are able to care for them.

[*This is not to say you should never bring them to a shelter that euthanizes – but be sure to understand whether or not the shelter will euthanize the kittens right away, or whether they have a foster home available or partner with a rescue that can take under-aged kittens. Once you know this information, use your best judgement.]

Kittens, Kittens Everywhere

All cats have it rough in shelters. Their survival rate (making it out of the doors and into a home) is still pretty low (often less than 50%). The best thing you can do, is make sure your cat is spayed or neutered. And of course, adopt your next cat instead of buying from a breeder. In the spring and summer months, there is no shortage of kittens in shelters! Some of the most loving, well-socialized kittens I know come out of the Best Friends LA kitten nursery, because they’ve been handled by many people every day since they were young.

A Tough, but Adorable Job

Sneaking into the kitten nursery to bottle-feed during downtime at the shelter is one of my favorite things to do. It can be difficult at times, since any given kitten may not make it, but it’s worth it to see the ones who do thrive finally make it into a new home!

Did I mention that they need round-the-clock care? You can volunteer at the Best Friends LA kitten nursery any time of day or night. We rely on hundreds of volunteers to keep the babies warm and full! Sign up here >>http://bfla.bestfriends.org/neonatal-kitten-program.html

kitten - black

The Cat Who Got Himself Adopted

This isn’t really my story, since I was a fairly passive participant in it—but it’s too good not to share. In fact, if I had been there for more of it, it very well may not have happened. So perhaps it’s just as well.

Jack the cat had decided that he was very well fed up with being in a shelter (even a nice one), so he took it upon himself to get adopted.

Several times a week, a few of the animals get taken on mobile adoptions. It’s a way for them to be seen in a shelter-less setting, to reach adopters who might not trek all the way up the valley to look at animals, and is a way to (cheaply) market the organization. The animals we take have to be fairly easy-going ones. Travel can be stressful, and often the dogs are going to be around other dogs, and the cats sometimes housed in large cages with another cat or two. The selection process is based on health and behavior, as well as overall adoptability.

Skittles the cat on the MAC at a previous mobile event.

Skittles the cat on the MAC at a previous mobile event.

So this past Friday, I went around selecting cats to go on Saturday’s mobile. The event was going to be on our MAC truck (Mobile Adoption Center), which is basically a giant trailer outfitted with cages and windows, so that people can see the animals inside. It’s a really nice unit, and the animals are housed individually, so they don’t necessarily have to get along. They only wanted six cats for Saturday (though they had space for eight) and I tried to make a good selection. I considered sending Jack, but he sometimes defecates in the carrier, so I didn’t want to stress him out.

Saturday morning came, and the adoption team that was working the mobile loaded up the cats. A couple of the cats were located in one of our free roam rooms, where multiple cats live, so they put down the carriers and looked for the right cats to load. Domingo was one of those cats and he was loaded into a carrier and they left, not knowing that Jack had already stuffed his large orange frame into that same carrier.

It wasn’t until they were transferring the cats into the MAC cages that Jack’s presence was discovered. (How they didn’t notice the carrier was absurdly heavy is a mystery, although loading up animals can be a bit hectic.) Since there were a couple extra cages, they decided to let Jack stay.

Jack the cat had taken himself on a mobile adoption.

It wasn’t until the afternoon that the cat team suddenly realized Jack’s absence at the shelter and were frantically trying to figure out where a very large cat may have disappeared to. When we thought to call the mobile team, knowing full well that Jack hadn’t been on the list to go, we were informed of Jack’s journey.

And that he had already been adopted.

Purrfect Picks: Xela

XelaNAME: XELA
AGE: 10 years old
GENDER: female (spayed)
DESCRIPTION: black and white short-haired MIXED breed

Xela is an unusual-looking older lady who, in any other shelter, might have been adopted ages ago. But she’s still with us at Best Friends Animal Society – Los Angeles and deserves a great home!

Xela is very sweet, calm and loves to lounge around. She’s not a huge fan of other cats, although she could probably tolerate living with another calm feline who gives her space. She has fur that needs to be brushed now and then, and she enjoys short brushing sessions. She only gets a little fussy around her hips and legs but gives you fair warning if she starts to get uncomfortable.

The staff at BFLA debate Xela’s breed, because she’s certainly more than just a domestic medium-hair. I think she’s part British short-hair, while others have said she’s part exotic, and still others think she might be part Persian (because of her slightly squished, round face). Who knows, but she’s certainly a cute cat!

Overall, Xela is a pretty healthy girl. She recently started some Cosequin for possible arthritis, which also means she may be a little older than ten (but who’s counting?). As with any older cat, an adopter should think about getting a bloodwork panel done just to be sure there’s no underlying condition.

Xela is one of my favorite cats, not only because of her beauty, but because she’s a mellow, gentle girl who can be picked up, and doesn’t require too much maintenance. She’s spent the day in our marketing office, and makes a wonderful office cat!

Xela has been at the shelter since May of 2013. This sweet girl deserves to be in a home where she can lounge in a sunny window and enjoy her golden years!

You can read Xela’s Petango profile here.

To adopt Xela, visit bestfriends.org/la.

>>>I am happy to report that my previous Purrfect Picks cat, Phantom, has been adopted!! Yay, Phantom!!

Purrfect Picks: Phantom

Purrfect Picks is a new type of blog post where I’ll be periodically highlighting some of my favorite kitties at the shelter and why they are so awesome (and why you or someone you know should adopt them!)

photo (10)

NAME: PHANTOM
AGE: 8 years old
GENDER: male (neutered)
DESCRIPTION: gray domestic long-hair

Phantom is a sweet, gentle cat who reminds me a lot of Dahlila. Not only does he look a lot like her (the long gray coat that creates a slightly grumpy look) but he is similarly chatty. He enjoys giving a grumpy meow in greeting and purrs up a storm once you start petting him.

He does well with other calm cats. He might not appreciate a younger cat pouncing on him, but any cat who’s willing to sit quietly near him is just fine. We don’t know whether he has any like or dislike for dogs. He was recently housed with a few other cats in a small communal room and did well.

Phantom is FIV+ which makes me love him even more. A lot of people get scared off by FIV*, because they think it means the cat is sick or will get sick. But as long as the cat is kept indoors and away from outside diseases, he should remain happy and healthy.

*For those who don’t know, FIV stands for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. It’s the cat version of HIV, with the big difference that there is no such thing as “cat AIDS” (no medication is required). The cat’s immune system is compromised, which is why it needs to stay indoors and away from infectious diseases—it would take more effort for the cat to get well if it ever got seriously ill. FIV cats can live with other cats, as long as they live peaceably. (Minor scuffles and scratches will not transfer FIV from one cat to another. It is only through the transfer of fluids, such as sex or deep bite wounds where it can e transmitted. So as long as your cats are fixed and don’t get into huge fights, they can all live happily and healthily together.) And, FIV cannot be transmitted from a cat to any other animal. [You can read more here.]

When Phantom was first rescued, the vet was concerned because there were hard lumps in his abdomen. Fearing it might be tumors, Phantom had a radiograph done, which revealed not tumors, but megacolon (i.e. a bad case of constipation). So currently Phantom is on some laxative medication and was moved to single-cat housing to monitor his defecation, poor fellow. Other than that, Phantom is a healthy cat with a lot of love to give!

As a middle-aged cat, Phantom is super easy-going. You can hold him, hug him, trim his nails, and give him a good brush (which he needs, as his belly fur can be prone to matting). He certainly doesn’t require excessive attention, but he’ll happily accept it.

Phantom is great cat for someone who wants an easy first cat, or a mellow guy to add to a multi-kitty household. I love spending extra moments with Phantom, because he’s such an easy cat to please and loves, loves to purr!

You can read Phantom’s Petango profile here.

To adopt Phantom, visit bestfriends.org/la.